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Posts Tagged ‘end’

All good things must come to an end and so it is with Cityness. I started this weblog over a year ago, as an experiment to see if I could connect the realm of the urban with the realms of science and arts. Whether that has been successful, is up to you to decide. For me, it was interesting to the extent that it brought me in contact with other people. But on the whole, it required considerable more energy than it returned. Some Internet-savvy people told me that the posts were too long to be published on the Internet. That may be so but I refuse to give in and join the great amounts of shallow tidbits that are strewn across the Internet. Also, the most popular posts on the website are about subjects that I will cover in an upcoming book. I think it is better that I focus my writing efforts on getting that book out instead of posting incomplete work here. So I’ve decided to stop Cityness but will continue to write contributions for the PAUME-website. Do you like to read about the urban, arts and sciences? Be sure to check out the ‘Featured’ section of the PAUME-site!

One of those pictures that I took for this weblog, without having a real story about it. It is a quick snapshot of Rotterdam, which captures the dynamics of this town nicely.

Some stats:
Cityness attracted about 10.000 hits in one year. The top three most popular single posts were the ones about Peckam, my thoughts on the role of railway stations in European cities and a discussion of the work of architect Maarten Struijs. The most popular review was the book review of Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Some popular posts will be reposted at the PAUME website, as long as it fits the PAUME framework. This blog will remain online as long as it keeps attracting readers.

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As the effects of the global economic cooling spreads to the public sector (where earlier bailouts, measures to dampen unemployment and special financial incentives to keep industrial sectors going are now being felt in the governmental budgets), the questions rise whether the contemporary city can stay out of trouble and how it will affect the city. The answer to first question is that no one escapes the consequences of the greatest economic depression in almost a century. The second question is much harder to answer. I had a number of discussions with experts recently and all had different ideas. But there was one thing they all said: the prolonged period of post-war growth will be replaced by a prolonged period of zero-growth or marginal growth – very alike the current Japanese situation. Again: what does that mean for the city? I try to get my head around the idead that in many cases (in Europe and the US, that is) we have seen the zenith of the city and that things go downhill from here. Let me try to explain that (from a European perspective, that is).

Source: The Economist, September 16th, 2010

The graph I think is important is the one on the right, taken from The Economist. It relates the number of cities to population growth. What it shows is that more and more people live in cities but that they are not moving towards the traditional city centers. Rather, the trend is towards the polycentric city, i.e. the conurbation of cities that are appearing everywhere. This (well-known) trend has caused the edge city where urban life is slowly creeping outside, leaving the downtown areas empty and devoid of life. The extent of this change varies but invariably urban planners have struggled with the consequences. There are two potential causes for a change: (1) population growth that needs to be accommodated by  the city because of lack of space elsewhere; (2) push factors that make the city more attractive in comparison to suburbia. As for (1), this is not going to happen. Western Europe and perhaps even the US will experience a declining population in twenty or thirty years time because of demographic change and a popular blocking of immigration. As for (2), it is clear that it is very, very hard to make the city look like a more attractive alternative than suburbia. There are very few instances where the flight to the suburbs was successfully curbed and channeled back into the city. A more recent Economist report shows that it is the suburbs themselves who are now subject to the developments that were thought unique to the city: poverty, mortgages that are not being repaid, lack of maintenance etc. This may act as a push factor away from the suburbs towards the city. But altogether I think that this is unlikely. So here it is: all recent urban plans I saw where based on the assumption that some sort of growth (demographic, economic) would propel the city back into the limelight. Now that this assumption has been slashed we need to rethink our urban strategies. What will the city look like in a contracting world? I would be happy to hear your thoughts!

Are we witnessing the evening of the city? Skyline of Rotterdam, picture by me.

Disclaimer: my view is obviously Euro-centric because Asia shows very different patterns and cities will continue to grow. But even there the main growth is not achieved in the traditional cities but rather in the ‘anonymous’ cities that have not claimed world fame (yet).

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